Toronto Maple Leafs @ Columbus Blue Jackets
07:00 PM at Nationwide Arena
Watch on: CBC, SN, BSOH
On December 14, the Leafs hosted the Blue Jackets. Columbus scored five, and then the Leafs scored five, and it went to CBJ in overtime.
On December 16, while the Leafs were putting up seven unanswered goals against the Penguins, Columbus was getting beat by the Devils 6-3.
On December 19, while the Leafs were watching pucks bounce off other planets and into their net against the Rangers (and losing 5-2), the Blue Jackets obliterated the Sabres 9-4.
On December 21, while the Leafs were still driving around looking for the Buffalo arena, the Sabres beat them 9-3. Columbus was busy having an angry game against Washington who won in overtime, the score a bizarre 3-2. Only five goals in the whole game? Who even does that?
And that is how we got here.
Surely we know the Blue Jackets by now. They're the team that loses, but scores, or scores even more, but wins, but isn't good, but beats the team that beats the Leafs and loses to the Leafs, and beats up Tom Wilson. It's like you can't even make up a facile narrative (also known as "identity") about other teams anymore.
Patrik Laine was hurt when hit in the December 14th game, so he's not playing. The Blue Jackets are also missing Adam Boqvist, Jack Roslovic and Boone Jenner. They have to play a lot of young players instead, including rookie Adam Fantilli at 1C. It sometimes works for them. It sometimes does not.
Damon Severson returns to the lineup and Jake Bean moves out.
Merzlikins played in their last game, and vented spleen at Tom Wilson, but it's likely he plays again. The Blue Jackets have an interesting plethora of goalies. They carry two others on the NHL roster, and Jet Greaves in the AHL has played a little NHL (didn't he embarrass the Leafs once?) and is having a good season in the minors. Columbus is last in their division and nearly as bad as Ottawa with an 11-17-6 record. Are they trading Merzlikins? If so, they might as well put him in the shop window because there are three teams with playoff aspirations with worse goaltending than the Leafs. The market is red hot.
Last Game (12/21) via Daily Faceoff
Johnny Gaudreau - Adam Fantilli - Justin Danforth
Yegor Chinakhov - Dmitri Voronkov - Kirill Marchenko
Kent Johnson - Cole Sillinger - Emil Bemstrom
Brendan Gaunce - Sean Kuraly - Alexandre Texier
Zach Werenski - Erik Gudbranson
Ivan Provorov - Damon Severson
Andrew Peeke - David Jiricek
I am going to confidently predict the Leafs play better this game than in their last one. Doesn't mean they'll win, but they won't be that spectacularly bad.
The lines below are from practice. I believe Ryan Reaves is eligible to be activated off of IR if he's better. I don't know that he is, and there's no compelling reason to play him.
If Conor Timmins gets a night off, that's good, as he's still clearly climbing the learning curve on what to do when, or more properly, what not to do.
Mitch Marner played with Matthews again at practice, so the second line should be better tonight.
David Alter via Daily Faceoff
Matthew Knies - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi - John Tavares - William Nylander
Nicholas Robertson - Max Domi - Calle Järnkrok
Bobby McMann - David Kämpf - Noah Gregor
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Jake McCabe - Timothy Liljegren
Simon Benoit - William Lagesson
Martin Jones - starter
I mean (Nylander voice). Who knows?